IT’S been billed as the miracle before Christmas.
Businesses across Edinburgh are set to enjoy a festive boost, with the Forth Road Bridge opening its lanes to general traffic this morning for the first time in 19 days.
Yesterday, it was revealed the vital crossing would reopen to all vehicles except HGVs from 6am – nearly two full weeks before experts predicted.
But it’s not all good news, with hauliers warning the HGV ban will cost firms more than £40 million.
Officials said the installation of a steel splint to repair a crack on the structure has been completed ahead of schedule, thanks to engineers working around the clock and favourable weather conditions.
They estimated the cost of the interim repair at £5 million, but said the full financial impact of the closure – including permanent repairs and monitoring equipment – wouldn’t be released until next year.
I would definitely say we’ve been about 20 per cent down in takings from where we would expect to be. Hopefully we will start seeing customers back again.John Sinclair
Splints will continue to be installed at seven other truss end links as a precautionary measure, but this work can be safely completed with the bridge open. And bosses said a full inspection of the crossing is now 90 per cent complete, with no further material defects detected.
Last night, shops and businesses from the surrounding area hailed the announcement as “great news”.
John Sinclair, owner of Craigie’s Farm Deli and Cafe near South Queensferry, said the move had caused a bit of welcome chaos as his team rallied to sort out orders for customers now able to travel through from Fife.
He said: “It’s great. I would definitely say we’ve been about 20 per cent down in takings from where we would expect to be. Hopefully we will start seeing customers back again.”
City council leader Andrew Burns also welcomed the announcement as tens of thousands of revellers prepare to flock to the Capital to celebrate Hogmanay.
He said: “As always, our priority is to keep the city moving, and while the bridge’s reopening will alleviate some of the ongoing delays to traffic, we will continue to work with partners to minimise the impact resulting from its continued closure to HGVs.
“[The news] will also be welcomed by the businesses and communities who have worked hard to remain open as usual despite disruption, particularly in South Queensferry, where we have been working with Marketing Edinburgh to help promote shops, cafes and restaurants across the area, which has been affected by the travel issues.”
Earlier this month the Evening News revealed businesses in South Queensferry feared losing tens of thousands of pounds as a result of the bridge shutdown. It was estimated the economic impact on the Capital alone could brush £50m.
Haulage organisations said the continued closure of the crossing to HGVs – expected to last until mid-February – would cost the industry an additional £40m.
Transport Minister Derek Mackay said: “With the temporary solution now in place, the remaining work to install the long-term repair can safely proceed without the need for a full closure. The repairs will be carried out with overnight lane restrictions on the bridge.”